Last week Skiddle Staff visited our charity partner Alder Hey Children's Hospital, the busiest children’s hospital in the UK and possibly Europe, aiming to inspire our continued partnership with the charity and gain an insight into how donations can help.
Alder Hey works alongside the NHS to improve both the technology that supports them and the experience of the children in their care through innovation in practices, medical equipment, on-site mental health facilities, research, and much more - next up being a new neonatal surgical unit.
Touring the grounds, the child-inspired designs of the hospital feel far from your typical experience as we are welcomed into the main foyer featuring endearing animal sculptures, a treehouse, a small spaceship, cartoons across the walls and colourful corridors branching off to other areas. Access to play areas and parks aim to put children at ease at Alder Hey.
Alder Hey treats 330,000 children every year at the 110-year-old hospital, with the helipad-accessible A&E department treating 60,000.
The site has undergone huge redevelopments and continues to grow. The new building’s architects were inspired by a patient's drawing of a flower, and Alder Hey became Europe's first hospital to be built on a park. All windows direct to a view out to it where possible - a proven positive influence towards mental health and healing - with grass and plants surrounding the buildings and scaling the outer walls and rooftops, an attribute that’s evermore essential with a 65% increase in mental health cases in children since the introduction of COVID lockdowns.
The expansions continue with a new mental health facility opening soon for ages 7 to late teens. Alder Hey’s current appeal is focused on a new Surgical Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), dedicated to providing specialist care and support to neonatal babies when they need it most, also housing family accommodation for parents and offering them enhanced patient monitoring systems.
Our tour included insights into the Alder Hey Innovation Centre; this extension to the hospital presents a range of approaches to how developments in technology can benefit doctors and patients alike throughout treatment and recovery. A 3D printer meticulously threaded together a prototype surgical tool by our side as we observed various other surgical instruments and anatomical replicas built from scans to assist with surgery. As we studied them, staff told tales of real-world examples where these printed models have allowed surgeons to plan their surgeries.
Another approach to viewing scans was presented through Virtual Reality - a versatile technology which has become instrumental in supporting surgery and conducting demonstrations. Most of us were familiar with its application in entertainment and video games, but here we opened a virtual ribcage, presenting and expanding the heart and lungs for us to quite literally move our head inside and see right inside the organs - more hands-on than Pete and I were expecting to be getting today! Viewing the scans in this way has many benefits, in this case, allowing holes in the heart to be identified underneath, which is otherwise hidden behind fatty tissue. VR has also benefited patients as a way to make physical exercise fun, adding an entertaining aspect to routines.
Moving away from anatomy, staff discussed the digital platforms that they develop. Topics of push notifications and .csv files seemed much more familiar ground for us! Their ‘Little Hearts At Home’ program allows patients to go home during and after treatments. Monitoring can continue using the platform with reports sent back to the hospital via sensors. These are configured to different data points depending on the patient.
Another platform, ‘Alder Hey Play,’ informs children about what is going on with their treatments by presenting things in an engaging and informative way. They aim to be real about it. Hospitals can be a scary place, but understanding the steps that are being taken can help children feel they don’t have to be afraid.
Everyone we spoke to at Alder Hey appears so passionate about their work, be that driving the tech to conduct life-changing and saving surgery or organising their mascot Ollie the Elephant’s next fundraising endeavours. It’s clear from our visit that they strive every day to improve the lives of children.
This work is, however, very expensive. Fundraising is crucial for continued access to materials for their research and innovations as well as staffing. The charity facilitates the fundraising, working closely with the hospital trust team who help prioritise where the money goes. The more money the charity raises, the more money they can put into the hospital and the children. Please consider donating where you can. The next time you go through the Skiddle checkout, look out for the checkbox to contribute to the Alder Hey neonatal surgical unit appeal!
Check out our What's On Guide to discover more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.